Buying beading supplies online can be a great experience or a complete let down. It all depends on how much knowledge you have of what it is you’re buying. When you purchase at your local bead store you can see and touch the beads, get an idea of the quality for the price as well as knowing exactly what size you’re buying.
When you go online for your bead supplies it helps to keep a few things in mind. Keeping these 6 factors in mind should help you make better online bead purchases.
1. Selection — Some sites specialize in only one type of beads, like crystals or gemstones, while others have so many choices you may get confused. Does the website you’re considering buying from have a large selection of the type of bead you are looking for?
2. Quality — When buying beads online you don’t have the tactile to see and feel exactly what you’re getting. In a craft or beading store you can examine the beads to determine the quality and feel confident about what you’ve chosen.. Not so easy when you buy beads online. Here you will have to look carefully at the photos of the beads (and some sites let you enlarge the image for a better view) and rely on the reviews of other buyers as to the quality.
3. Price — Some beads are easy to price compare. If you want to buy Swarovski Crystallized Elements they are uniform in color and size so it’s easy to find the online bead store with the best price (don’t forget to factor in shipping cost). For other types of beads, it’s not as easy to be sure you’re getting the right price. But you can still compare based on the description of the item. I recently purchased mixed gemstone donuts from 2 different sites — the quality from each was comparable, but the price was higher on one — and not only did the higher priced supplier have a higher shipping cost, they also charged a handling fee. When you know the type and size of the bead you want to buy online, price comparing is much easier.
4. Shipping — does the website offer free or reduced shipping? If it’s free, will it take forever to get to you? If you’re paying for it, when can you expect it? Is there free shipping after reaching a certain purchase amount? Be aware that some sites also charge a handling fee — that plus paying shipping has just increased your cost per bead.
5. Coupon — is there a discount coupon code available or a free shipping code? A Google search for the name of the website and the words “coupon code” will help you find these. Be careful not to sign up for anything, though. Some good coupon code sites do not require sign-up. The codes are submitted by other customers who have discovered them and are sharing. Not all, but a good number of sites selling quality beading supplies at good prices will send you coupon codes by email after your first purchase.
6. Size — the sizing of beads is tricky for those of us in the U.S because beads are sized according to the metric system and we learned to size things in inches. You need to know that 4mm is a pretty small bead and that 30mm is fairly large. And it’s not just beads sized this way. Many of the findings you use when beading are sized in millimeters like wire and jump rings. Find a good online bead size chart (Google “bead size chart” and images) before buying beads and beading supplies online.